Bill to limit police traffic stops taken off table; McHenry County law enforcement ready to fight its return

Lawmaker proposes – then steps back from – bill; McHenry County State’s Attorney Kenneally calls it ‘laughably stupid’

McHenry County law enforcement officials have spoken out against a bill proposed last month that would have prohibited police officers from stopping vehicles for – among several other violations – failing to display registration plates or stickers and defective mirrors or bumpers.

After hearing objections from the Illinois Sheriff’s Association and others in law enforcement, state Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, who introduced House Bill 4603, has said that he will not be moving the bill in this session and will work with law enforcement on future bills.

“This was more of a conversation starter,” Slaughter told Capitol Fax last week.

It’s just another mind-numbing attempt to keep police from doing their job and legislating on behalf of criminals and not the public they endanger.”

—  McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally

Slaughter, who also is a backer of the controversial SAFE-T Act, told Capitol Fax that his intention was not to take away the tools of law enforcement to make traffic stops.

He said he recognized that as the bill is currently written it is broad, but he plans “to have the conversation about racial disparities. I think the narrative that I’m [going to] put a lot of effort into is balance.”

McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman said Friday that, based on communications of a legislative committee for the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, there was “unanimous opposition to the bill as it was written.”

A news release issued earlier by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office called traffic enforcement “one of many important functions law enforcement is tasked with.”

“Traffic enforcement keeps roadways safe, reduces crime and saves lives,” according to the release. “This bill limits Illinois law enforcement deputies’ and officers’ ability to provide safe roads for the motoring public and safety for the community as a whole.”

The bill also would have prohibited police from pulling over vehicles for:

• being operated with an expired registration sticker.

• violating general speed restrictions, unless that violation is a misdemeanor (25 mph over the posted speed limit) or felony offense (35 mph over the posted speed limit).

• improper lane use, unless that violation is a misdemeanor or felony offense.

• failing to comply with certain requirements concerning vehicle lamps.

• excessive tint.

• an obstructed windshield or defective windshield wipers.

• excessive exhaust.

• failure of the vehicle operator to wear a safety belt.

The proposed bill also set forth that evidence discovered or obtained as the result of a stop in violation of these provisions – including but not limited to evidence discovered or obtained with the operator’s consent – would not be admissible in a trial.

Thomas Walsh, deputy police chief for the city of McHenry, said the “goal of traffic enforcement is roadway safety,” and if such a bill were passed, it would have a negative result on communities.

“Even a traffic stop for what some may consider a minor violation ... could lead into an investigation of much more serious matters” such as driving under the influence, Walsh said.

The McHenry Police Department is an active member of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police which also contacted Slaughter and expressed concerns about his proposed state law.

“We are thankful the bill was not called and look forward to participating in future conversations on this topic if necessary,” Walsh said.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally called the proposal “a laughably stupid and insulting bill, especially to law enforcement.”

McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Keneally talks about how cashless bail is going to be implemented. Kenneally spoke during a McHenry County Bar Association meeting entitled "Pretrial and Fairness and Safe-T: Navigating the Elimination of Cash Bail and Related Items" on Tuesday Aug. 29, at the McHenry Count Sheriff's Office.

Like Walsh, Kenneally said a significant share of DUI charges have resulted from an improper lane use or speeding.

“The entire bill is designed to artificially deflate crime statistics in Cook County by reducing the police officers’ ability to detect crime,” Kenneally said. “Provisions in the bill that would allow suppression of evidence acquired in these traffic stops is deranged.”

For example, if the bill ever became law, Kenneally said, police pulling over someone for speeding and finding a child, three bodies or a load of fentanyl in the trunk would mean the findings could not be entered as evidence to prosecute.

“It’s just another mind-numbing attempt to keep police from doing their job and legislating on behalf of criminals and not the public they endanger,” Kenneally said.

Attempts to reach Slaughter for comment Friday were unsuccessful.